< HOME  Saturday, July 01, 2006

Introducing Test-Tube Meat - No Animals Required

What if the next burger you ate was created in a warm, nutrient-enriched soup swirling within a bioreactor?
I would first yack and then sue.
Edible, lab-grown ground chuck that smells and tastes just like the real thing might take a place next to Quorn at supermarkets in just a few years, thanks to some determined meat researchers. Scientists routinely grow small quantities of muscle cells in petri dishes for experiments, but now for the first time a concentrated effort is under way to mass-produce meat in this manner.
Just great. I knew I should have become a farmer. I wouldn't have to rely on corporate freaks for my food.
Henk Haagsman, a professor of meat sciences at Utrecht University, and his Dutch colleagues are working on growing artificial pork meat out of pig stem cells. They hope to grow a form of minced meat suitable for burgers, sausages and pizza toppings within the next few years.
And will there be some kind of warning requirement for consumers? Or will we be left to guess whether we're eating real meat or test-tube droppings?
Currently involved in identifying the type of stem cells that will multiply the most to create larger quantities of meat within a bioreactor, the team hopes to have concrete results by 2009. The 2 million euro ($2.5 million) Dutch-government-funded project began in April 2005. The work is one arm of a worldwide research effort focused on growing meat from cell cultures on an industrial scale.

"All of the technology exists today to make ground meat products in vitro," says Paul Kosnik, vice president of engineering at Tissue Genesis in Hawaii. Kosnik is growing scaffold-free, self-assembled muscle. "We believe the goal of a processed meat product is attainable in the next five years if funding is available and the R&D is pursued aggressively."

A single cell could theoretically produce enough meat to feed the world's population for a year. But the challenge lies in figuring out how to grow it on a large scale. Jason Matheny, a University of Maryland doctoral student and a director of New Harvest, a nonprofit organization that funds research on in vitro meat, believes the easiest way to create edible tissue is to grow "meat sheets," which are layers of animal muscle and fat cells stretched out over large flat sheets made of either edible or removable material. The meat can then be ground up or stacked or rolled to get a thicker cut.
YUCK!!! I am not eating another burger - EVER!
"You'd need a bunch of industrial-size bioreactors," says Matheny. "One to produce the growth media, one to produce cells, and one that produces the meat sheets. The whole operation could be under one roof."

The advantage, he says, is you avoid the inefficiencies and bottlenecks of conventional meat production. No more feed grain production and processing, breeders, hatcheries, grow-out, slaughter or processing facilities.
Pretty soon you won't need the people that eat the meat either! You can just grow US in petri dishes alongside the meat!
"To produce the meat we eat now, 75 (percent) to 95 percent of what we feed an animal is lost because of metabolism and inedible structures like skeleton or neurological tissue," says Matheny. "With cultured meat, there's no body to support; you're only building the meat that eventually gets eaten."
Alright people, this is beyond bizarre.
The sheets would be less than 1 mm thick and take a few weeks to grow. But the real issue is the expense. If cultivated with nutrient solutions that are currently used for biomedical applications, the cost of producing one pound of in vitro meat runs anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000.
Of course, they'll never dish out that investment to feed us SHEEPLE.
Matheny believes in vitro meat can compete with conventional meat by using nutrients from plant or fungal sources, which could bring the cost down to about $1 per pound.
NOW, you know what they'll be using three years from now in the products they sell on your local fast-food restaurant's Value Menu.
If successful, artificially grown meat could be tailored to be far healthier than any type of farm-grown meat. It's possible to stuff if full of heart-friendly omega-3 fatty acids, adjust the protein or texture to suit individual taste preferences and screen it for food-borne diseases.
They could just as easily pack it with retro-viruses.
But will it really catch on? The Food and Drug Administration has already barred food products involving cloned animals from the market until their safety has been tested. There's also the YUCK factor. [emphasis added]

"Cultured meat isn't natural, but neither is yogurt," says Matheny. "And neither, for that matter, is most of the meat we eat. Cramming 10,000 chickens in a metal shed and dosing them full of antibiotics isn't natural. I view cultured meat like hydroponic vegetables. The end product is the same, but the process used to make it is different. Consumers accept hydroponic vegetables. Would they accept hydroponic meat?"
Short answer: Hell no.
Taste is another unknown variable. Real meat is more than just cells; it has blood vessels, connective tissue, fat, etc. To get a similar arrangement of cells, lab-grown meat will have to be exercised and stretched the way a real live animal's flesh would.
You can't see me, but my jaw has dropped to the ground.
Kosnik is working on a way to create muscle grown without scaffolds by culturing the right combination of cells in a 3-D environment with mechanical anchors so that the cells develop into long fibers similar to real muscle.
It just dropped a few more inches.
The technology to grow a juicy steak, however, is still a decade or so away. No one has yet figured out how to grow blood vessels within tissue.
I guess we can thank God for the little things in life and make sure that the next time we shop for meat in the supermarket we make sure it's attached to a BONE.


At Sunday, July 02, 2006, Blogger thepoetryman said...

Damn! Now it's just a T? How depressing...

At Sunday, July 02, 2006, Blogger Akber said...

The more complex the product, the more investment and planning go into it, and the planning requires control over raw material and markets.

To reject some technological products, one should reject cars, computers, mass transit and trains, and medical drugs -- all the things that make our lives better than the serfs of old times.

Or, there is a middle road - organize consumers so that it is obvious to the industrial planner that this product will not be marketable (regardless of advertising effort and lobbied-for legal mandates).

Without such market certainty (positive or negative) the investment and planning needed is not implemented.

At Sunday, July 02, 2006, Blogger Citisucks said...

I don't know if this is such a bad thing. The way animals are currently treated that are used for food is so cruel and inhumane that this would be an improvement over the current system even though it sounds yucky. I have been a vegetarian for 13 years though so it really doesn't impact me. If everyone in the world were a vegetarian there would be enough food to feed everyone in the world-of course though the corporate terrorists would be to busy hoarding the money so they can buy extra rolex's though instead of making sure that food gets distributed to the people who really need it.


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